Hook, Line & Sinker: Miliband wins Brand’s Vote


Modern social democracies try to live in the sweet spot between businesses collapsing and the public revolting. One is caused by trying to exert too much control and extract too much revenue from business, the other is caused by completely removing all public services. The sweet spot, the mixed economy, produces dull yet stable, long-lasting Governments where nothing particularly exciting happens but the maximum number of people have a decent quality of life and the number of out-right losers is kept to a minimum. At least compared against other systems.

It’s a filthy compromise but this is where democracies around the world have ended up. The wisdom of crowds etc.

Russell Brand therefore came to the logical conclusion that there was no point voting. All Governments find themselves at the mercy of this dark equation where trying to extract more money and control results in less money coming in, trying to cut too much results in losing public support.

So I was surprised to hear that Russell Brand had endorsed Ed Miliband, and was actively encouraging people to vote for Labour. What could I do, then, but watch the video? What could Ed Miliband have said, or promised, that could cause Russell Brand to believe that Ed Miliband will go against the trend of all previous British Governments?

What I found was the Ed Miliband actually said the opposite of what Russell Brand thought he said. Take this, for example:

Take two other big issues this year. Climate change and International Development. Part of what’s going to have to happen is The Movement is going to have to put pressure on Governments all round the world to step up to the plate on Climate Change.

Russell Brand doesn’t speak politician. What Ed is saying here is that Labour, as a populist party, is driven by populist sentiments and that if people don’t care about Climate Change or International Development, Labour won’t touch them.

What the people are demanding this time, what “The People” want, in the populist pandering sense, is to “Fuck the Immigrants!”, “Fuck the scroungers!” so that’s what Labour are offering this time, which Russell Brand dismissed with a wave of a hand. Not important. Not as important as having a Prime Minister that might take his calls.

Ed continues,

You know it’s about change that happens because […] it’s about people… sort of.. playing their part.

All Miliband is saying is that populist parties need policies to be popular before they can touch them.

Yet Russell Brand heard something quite different:

I would see your election as a Labour Prime Minister as the beginning of a proper conversation between an activated community-led Britain where politicians do feel accountable and politicians do feel that they’ve got to listen to ordinary people not listen to lobbyists

This is quite the leap. I suspect that like many new converts, people hear what they want to hear. Confirmation bias, etc. I know how this feels. I’ve been there myself. I was suckered into hearing what I wanted to hear with Tony Blair and with Nick Clegg and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it happen again.

Ed Miliband isn’t lying though. He’s trying to be honest:

EM: I don’t think we can just sort of kick over the traces, right? We can’t just say… I mean this is the way I … you know.. kind of… my dad would have had a different position from me.. you probably know about my dad.
RB: Yeah! Ralph Miliband, was bang into the socialism.
EM: Yeah.. er.. that’s one way of putting it… but, you know, you need a banking system, you need.. but it’s got to be done in the right way and it’s got to be fair.

Miliband is trying to let Russell Brand down as gently as possible. He does it so gently that Brand doesn’t even notice. Miliband’s dad would have been the sort of Prime Minister that Russell Brand wants: Utterly fearless and acting against business and the banks without regard to consequences or effects, but Miliband isn’t going to be like that. He won’t demolish everything. You have to work within the system. There has to be banks. He accepts that he’s subject to the same limitations and restrictions faced by all previous Prime Ministers. Not too hot, not too cold. Governments that don’t get their porridge just right get kicked out.

Brand, however, is convinced:

It’s not about euphoria. It’s about stability and about a dialogue with the British people where they’re heard over the interests of the powerful. Then I think what we’ve got is something worth voting for.

and

This bloke will be in parliament and I think this bloke will listen to us.

I’m not going to go into too much detail here about how Labour run their party but New Labour was very much Command and Control. Everything came from Number 10, and the rest of the party fell into line. There is no mechanism for The People to be listened to other than through focus groups.

There’s a reason for this: New Labour’s biggest challenge was reassuring the British people that they were getting Tony Blair in charge, not Tony Blair who would then be subject to the whims and desires of militants within the Labour Party. Even now you can see that all the shadow cabinet ministers and everyone who goes on television is under almost ruthless discipline to tow the party line, to stick to the exact word for word script of this campaign. Ed Miliband can’t afford for a single second not to look like he has absolute control over his party.

None of this seems to phase Russell Brand at all, if he’s even noticed. He believes Ed Miliband is that sort of old-fashioned Labour leader that can be controlled by activists… literally the exact opposite of what Ed Miliband has to be in order to have a chance of being Prime Minister.

So, tl;dr: Miliband gets the endorsement of Russell Brand who promises, on Ed’s behalf, that he’s going to be a listening Prime Minister — A New Kind Of Politics! — whilst Ed simultaneously, in the interview, says the exact opposite, reassuring the swing voters that he’s going to be incredibly sensible and do nothing unusual. I’m almost impressed.

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